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A Pop & Hiss Guide to tributes to the late great J Dilla and Big Pun

February 10, 2011 |  6:08 pm

"J.Dilla: Still Shining" from B.Kyle on Vimeo.

Over the last several years, the span between Feb. 7 and Feb. 10 has become an unofficial rapper tribute week, with the anniversary of the late Big Punisher's death falling in the same week as J Dilla's birthday and passing. 

On Monday, DJ HouseShoes hosted a star-studded tribute at Little Temple, which featured sets from a who's who of Los Angeles DJs, including Rhettmatic, Gaslamp Killer, Mayer Hawthorne, DJ Nu-Mark, Mr. Choc and DJ Babu. On Wednesday night, Gaslamp took a portion of that set to the Low End Theory, where it received a rapturous reception from the crowd. Beyond the world of hip-hop, Dilla's presence has been widely felt in the world of indie rock, with artists such as Javelin and Star Slinger applying his inspiration in vastly different directions.

Accordingly, the Internet has been awash in excellent memorials to the two. At the risk of reiterating another teary-eyed testimonial, let's just say that Dilla had a watershed impact on the music world. But rather than deifying the man, it's important to understand the qualities that made him great. Beyond raw talent, James Yancey had a notoriously indefatiguable work ethic and refused creative stasis. Whereas the chopped soul loops of his latter-day "Donuts" period have spawned an army of imitators, there are at least half a dozen incarnations of the man. He contained multitudes and it manifested itself in his omnivorous approach to music and his abyssal record collection.

From sampling Bruce Haack, Raymond Scott and Detroit techno to M.O.P. and Jadakiss, he readily shunned convention and any preconceived notions. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and most important, he was an original. These are some of the best tributes (with a tip of the cap to Impose, who had the same idea as me, but executed it first.) 

Despite his notorious heft, the Big Punisher's influence has been more modest, compared with that of J Dilla. But that's less a reflection of his boundless skills than of the more simplistic and less lyrically driven direction hip-hop followed in his wake. But 11 years after his death, Christopher Rios is widely regarded as one of the nicest ever.  As he should be.

  -- Jeff Weiss